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Jets’ QB drama: Sam Darnold would ’embrace’ competition from rookie – New York Jets Blog



FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Darnold vs. Wilson? Former Jets quarterback Josh McCown couldn’t help but laugh at how the narrative surrounding Sam Darnold has changed. Noting the fickle nature of the NFL, McCown told ESPN this week, “Three years ago, it was ‘Suck for Sam.’ Now it’s, ‘Sucked for Sam.'”

The past three seasons have stunk for everybody connected with the Jets, and that’s one of the reasons Darnold could be replaced by a rookie, presumably BYU’s Zach Wilson. McCown, who became a mentor to Darnold in 2018 and has remained close with him, believes the Jets would be wise to keep him. He feels Darnold would thrive in a stable, quarterback-friendly environment, something he hasn’t had.

“This is the situation you want to come into, what they set up now,” McCown said. “You have a head coach and a GM that are aligned. You have picks, you have cap space and you’ve put yourself in a position to make a run at genuine, long-term success. Unfortunately, that’s not the situation that Sam came into.”

Right now, Darnold is in limbo, the subject of trade rumors. McCown said he hasn’t sensed any frustration from Darnold, but he knows it can’t be easy.

“To be on the cusp of [an organizational reboot] and have them go, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to be for you, that’s going to be for somebody else’ — no doubt, it’s hard,” McCown said. “But I have not felt any negativity from him at all. He’s always positive and always has a great mindset. That speaks to his character and what he’s about.”

Darnold’s trade market appears to be drying up, fueling speculation the Jets could keep Darnold and pair him with a rookie. That could be awkward, but McCown sees the upside in that scenario.

“Can it be done? Absolutely,” McCown said. “In my mind, if you can’t get the value now for him, that’s absolutely how you go about it. I wouldn’t even call it a competition. I would just say, ‘We’re going to go with Sam as the guy and bring Zach along.’ If Sam knocks it out of the park, we’ll re-evaluate where we are a year from now.

“Sam would embrace it and be helpful, but he’d also go out and work hard and try to make the most of the opportunity to play this year — and put it back on them and make them have to make a tough decision at the end of the year. I think, if that happens, really and truly, everybody wins.”

2. Mini-mock 1.o: Yep, it’s that time.

With the No. 2 pick, I’m predicting Wilson to the Jets — hardly a bombshell and the chalk pick at this point. At No. 23, it’s Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II, who would fill a big need and has the ball skills to excel in their Cover 3 scheme. He’d be the fourth corner off the board in my mock. Some mocks have the Jets taking a running back, but that would be a surprise this early.



Mike Tannenbaum explains why Zach Wilson is the better choice at quarterback for the Jets over Sam Darnold.

3. Zach attack: One of the reasons the Jets like Wilson is because he’s an ideal scheme fit. They’re installing the Shanahan version of the West Coast offense, which stresses play-action and a moving pocket. A quarterback must be able to throw on the run, and Wilson does that very well.

On designed rollouts in 2020, Wilson completed 69.4% (25-of-36) of pass attempts for 320 yards, five touchdowns with zero interceptions and zero sacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Keep in mind, we’re talking about high-percentage passes for the most part, but this provides context: His 96.4 QBR on designed rollouts was the third-highest mark among quarterbacks with 25 such dropbacks over the past three seasons.

Wilson also crushed it as a play-action passer, completing 74% (96-of-129) with 19 touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Based strictly on scheme, Wilson is the right guy for the Jets. But we know there’s more to it than that.

4. Draft trivia: In franchise history, which Jets draft pick (non-kicker) has the most career games played? Answer below.

5. Earn it! You may have noticed a trend among the Jets’ free-agent signings: Eight of the 12 additions have relatively large incentive packages included in their deals. For instance: Defensive end Carl Lawson, who has a three-year contract, can pocket an additional $800,000 per year based on sack incentives.

There has been a shift in organizational philosophy over the past couple of years.

Salary-cap/contract expert Jason Fitzgerald of did some research and discovered the Jets have made 32 signings between 2019 and 2021 with incentives and/or escalators — a significant increase from previous years. There were eight in 2017-18, mostly modest amounts. He traces the change to senior director of football administration Dave Socie, who arrived in 2018 after several years in the league office.

“This year, in particular, [the incentives] are big, relative to the size of the deals,” said Fitzgerald, mentioning running back Tevin Coleman, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, defensive end Vinny Curry and safety Lamarcus Joyner. Fitzgerald said the incentive packages are “clearly being used to entice the veteran player.”

Coleman, Curry and Joyner signed one-year deals. Rankins has a two-year contract with the chance to earn an additional $4 million in performance incentives and $2 million in performance escalators.

In case you’re wondering, the incentives don’t count on the cap unless they’re earned. Smart.

6. See ya! The Jets, who began with 19 unrestricted free agents, have retained one so far — safety Marcus Maye, who signed his franchise-tag tender ($10.6 million). They haven’t re-signed any others, which says everything you need to know about how coach Robert Saleh feels about what he inherited. They did re-sign wide receiver Vyncint Smith and running back Josh Adams, but they were in the restricted category and received modest deals less than the RFA tender.

7. Philly jinx: As everybody knows, the Jets’ “17th opponent” in the new 17-game schedule is the Philadelphia Eagles. Figures, right? The Eagles are the only team the Jets have never beaten — never ever. They’re 0-11, including five straight losses in which they failed to score 20 points.

8. Not-so-sweet 16: As a franchise, the Jets probably won’t miss the 16-game season. I mean, it’s not like they produced a bunch of glittering seasons and statistical milestones during the 43-year run of 16-game seasons. In fact, the Jets and Chicago Bears were the only teams that didn’t have a 4,000-yard passer in a season. Joe Namath passed for 4,007 in 1967, when the season was 14 games. Since then, 197 quarterbacks have eclipsed 4,000 in a season.

In a not-so-fond farewell to the 16-game season, let’s take a moment to recognize the Jets’ statistical bests during that era:

  • Most wins: 12-4 (1998).

  • Most passing yards: 3,905, Ryan Fitzpatrick (2015).

  • Most rushing yards: 1,697, Curtis Martin (2004). Martin was responsible for seven of the team’s 17 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

  • Most receiving yards: 1,502, Brandon Marshall (2015). The team had 14 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including five by Don Maynard, who accomplished all five in 14-game seasons.

  • Most touchdowns: 15, Thomas Jones (2008).

9. Be like Nick: Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey is a self-described film junkie. He likes to study top centers, and one of his favorites is former Jets Pro Bowler Nick Mangold. He also admires Travis Frederick and Maurkice Pouncey, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.

“Those are the three I watch the most,” Humphrey said at his pro day. “All three of them are tough, physical players, good leaders for their team, so they are the kinds of guys I’m drawn to the most.”

10. Trivia answer: Linebacker James Farrior, 230 games. He was the No. 8 overall pick in 1997, coach Bill Parcells’ first draft. He played five seasons with the Jets, 10 with the Steelers.

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Lamar Jackson’s absence delays growth of Ravens’ passing attack – Baltimore Ravens Blog



OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After the news circulated that Lamar Jackson had tested positive for COVID-19, a fan tweeted Wednesday morning that he was boarding a flight from Los Angeles to see Jackson at training camp and the former NFL MVP was not going to be there.

Jackson responded with the images of five broken hearts.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh wouldn’t disclose how many days Jackson would miss. What is known is Jackson’s absence will delay the growth of the NFL’s worst passing attack from last season.

What’s the emoji for utter disappointment?

The Ravens remained positive, or as positive as a team can be when you begin training camp without your star quarterback. The players talked about next man up. Harbaugh said the situation is one “you almost kind of rejoice in” because it gives an opportunity for others to step up.

But this was a critical training camp for Jackson and this offense. Baltimore invested heavily in upgrading its weapons and pass protection this offseason after producing only a field goal in the 17-3 divisional-round loss at the Buffalo Bills.

The Ravens added two new wide receivers, drafting Rashod Bateman in the first round and signing Sammy Watkins in free agency. Baltimore revamped its offensive line, bringing in free agents Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva in addition to selecting Ben Cleveland in the third round.

All of that money and draft capital generated plenty of chatter and optimism around the city for the start of training camp. Over 1,000 fans poured into the first practice, which was supposed to be the unveiling of Jackson and the new offense. On Saturday, a crowd of over 30,000 is expected to watch practice at M&T Bank Stadium, where many wanted to see Jackson slinging the ball all over the field to his new targets.

But any notion that the Ravens moved past the pandemic and returned to normalcy ended when Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley, and Kenji Bahar were the only quarterbacks suited up for Baltimore.

What’s the emoji for buzz kill?

The Ravens know how valuable every training camp practice is. Last year, no offseason practices and a shortened camp due to the pandemic played a factor in Jackson not matching his 2019 MVP season.

Baltimore beat the odds by going 11-5 while throwing for only 171.2 yards per game. The Ravens became the fourth team since the playoffs expanded to 12 in 1990 to make the playoffs despite finishing last in passing yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Harbaugh has dismissed the No. 32 passing ranking, pointing out Baltimore attempted fewer passes than any other team. But the Ravens understand that Jackson has to throw the ball better and the offensive line has to block better in order for them to make an extended championship run.

Now, Jackson will have a reduced number of passes that could help him build chemistry with Bateman and Watkins, who are projected to be among his top three wide receivers. He’ll also have fewer snaps with his new center Bradley Bozeman and the rest of the new-look offensive line. He’ll also have reduced time working under center and throwing to running backs, both of which are wrinkles being implemented into the passing game this year.

As Ravens tight end Mark Andrews put it this week, training camp “is where, as a team, you kind of find out what you’re about and what you’re made of.” If Jackson is sidelined 10 days — that is the protocol for unvaccinated players who test positive — he would miss eight practices and join the team one week before the preseason opener.

“Of course having reps with [Jackson] means a lot,” said Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Jackson’s closest friend on the team. “But, as a receiver, if we’re out here working and wide open, he’s just going to have to come back and get us the ball. While he’s out, we’ve got to do the best we can to make sure we’re better for him.”

The Ravens were surprisingly impressive without Jackson on Wednesday. McSorley and Huntley, who are battling for that backup job, had their best practices with the team. They stretched the field and put the ball in tight windows. Not having Jackson will allow Baltimore to have more tape to evaluate who will become the No. 2 quarterback.

“Those guys had all the reps, and they did well, didn’t they?” Harbaugh said. “It’s only going to bolster those two guys and make those guys stronger than they would have been otherwise. That helps our team get better.”

For the Ravens to get better in their passing game, Jackson has to be out on the field throwing the ball. That might not happen until the end of next week.

What’s the emoji for frustration?

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Coach Reich ‘still a part’ of Carson Wentz’s first Colts camp, despite COVID-19 absence – Indianapolis Colts Blog



WESTFIELD, Ind. — Carson Wentz took the field for his first training camp as the new starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday morning.

But a significant piece was missing — the same piece that played an instrumental part in the quarterback being traded to Indianapolis from Philadelphia.

Head coach Frank Reich.

Reich won’t be there in person during the early portion of training camp to talk to Wentz in between series in practice, applaud him for making the right read on a throw or for throwing the ball away instead of taking a sack, or to give him any guidance on anything else that may come up in practices.

And what Reich missed on Wednesday was a quarterback feeling like it was Christmas morning.

“I was telling (offensive coordinator Marcus) Brady I’m a little amped, I have to tone it down a little bit,” Wentz said. “It feels like the first day of school a little bit, coming out here, beautiful setting for training camp. You have farm lands all around you. My type of place.”

Wentz, the rest of his teammates and the entire coaching staff will spend at least the first few days of training camp preparing for the start of the regular season without their head coach. Reich is currently away from the team after testing positive for COVID-19 late last week. He said in a statement Monday that he’s fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. There is no set timetable for when Reich will return to the team. The Colts will practice four straight days before taking a day off Sunday. The hope is that Reich will be back by at least Aug. 2.

The pandemic has been around for more than 16 months, but this is the first time that Reich will spend time away from the team due to COVID-19. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone missed some time, including a game, due to it last season.

“It’s going to be tough without the head coach,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “He’s being involved. He’s at home recovering.”

Duties in Reich’s absence will be divided up, as general manager Chris Ballard said they will not name an interim head coach for the time being. Duties will be split up pretty evenly between Ventrone, Brady and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

“Bubba is a little more free during practice, so he’ll handle some of the practice duties,” Ballard said. “Frank is still a part of it. With everything we learned a year ago with Zoom, he’s still involved. He’s in meetings through Zoom, he’ll be in team meetings through Zoom. We have staff meetings every morning, and he is in constant contact with everybody. We just keep moving forward.”

Brady, who is in his first year as offensive coordinator of the Colts, handled the post-practice media session that Reich routinely does. Eberflus will address the media Thursday.

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner understands what Reich is going through. He said it was “terrible” and he was “frustrated” having to miss a game while being stuck at home due to COVID-19 last season.

“Sent him a text a couple of days saying he was in mine and my wife’s prayers,” Buckner said. “I know the type of guy he is, I know he’s frustrated, not being able to be out here physically with the team, kicking off the season. I’ve been in his shoes. It’s very frustrating.”

Not having Reich for the start of another training camp with a new quarterback in Wentz isn’t ideal no matter how you look at it because he is the head coach and the team’s offensive playcaller.

The good thing — if you want to say there’s anything good about Reich’s absence — is that he already has a two-year relationship with Wentz, when he was the offensive coordinator during the quarterback’s first two years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles (2016-17).

“He tunes into every meeting,” Wentz said. “We talk individually or as a position group. He’s just as involved as he can. I know it’s killing him not being out here. He’s doing well. He’s doing everything he can to be a part of it.”

Brady, the first-time NFL offensive coordinator, has been on Reich’s staff since Reich became head coach in 2018. And Reich, even though he is the offensive playcaller, has never been overbearing with his coaching staff. It also helps that the Colts have the majority of their offensive starters back from last season’s team that went 11-5 and reached the playoffs.

“I don’t think it’ll be any different,” running back Nyheim Hines said. “First of all, Frank is a very laid-back guy. He’s not hands on, so he’s laid back, very quiet. … Our draft class has a lot of leaders on this team. We’re going to hold it down for Frank. We’re going to give him something to be excited about when he comes back.

“We know we’re losing our leader, but we have a lot of other leaders on this team and we’re going to be asked to step up.”

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Joe Burrow puts injury out of his mind as Bengals try to be cautious – Cincinnati Bengals Blog



CINCINNATI — Of all the things that happened during the Cincinnati Bengals‘ first practice of training camp on Wednesday, one development mattered more than anything.

Joe Burrow felt great.

A black brace supporting Burrow’s surgically-repaired left knee was the only indicator that the quarterback was a little more than eight months removed from a season-ending injury. Aside from that, Burrow went through all the usual motions that indicate the regular season is a few weeks away.

He lined up under center. He participated in 11-on-11 drills. He rolled out of the pocket with no issues. Burrow gave every indicator that he was close to full strength, which he indicated before Wednesday’s practice.

“It feels almost 100%,” Burrow said. “At this point, I’m not even really thinking about it.”

Throughout the offseason, the 2020 top overall draft pick said he was on track to start on Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. He participated in every organized team activity and in a one-day minicamp while he waited to get full clearance from his medical team. That came earlier in July, when he was authorized to resume all football activities.

Earlier this week, team owner and president Mike Brown indicated that Burrow would not participate in the three-game preseason. Third-year coach Zac Taylor echoed those sentiments on Wednesday.

“We’ll look at everything, every scenario about what would we gain out of it,” Taylor said. “If we’re going to put him out there, what exactly is that going to look like? Can we control it or not control it? We don’t have to make that decision today.”

Burrow, however, has a different idea. He said he wants to get a few snaps to feel the rush and even get hit a couple of times. And as beneficial as it might be for his rehab progress, feeling the contact has always been an indicator that football season was on the horizon.

“It doesn’t really feel like football until you get hit a little bit,” Burrow said. “That’s how it’s been for me since eighth grade. In scrimmages, I was always lobbying to be live. That’s how it’s always been. It’s just what I need to feel ready for Week 1.”

Fortunately for all the members of Bengals ownership who were watching practice, Burrow never came close to getting hit. He was perfect in 7-on-7 drills, the highlight a completion to rookie Ja’Marr Chase down the sideline with Chase dragging his feet before he went out of bounds.

The low point was on a type of movement Burrow said he lacked confidence in during OTAs. Toward the end of Wednesday’s practice, Burrow started right before he rolled back to his left to look for an open receiver. Linebacker Jordan Evans batted Burrow’s pass into the air in what could have been an interception.

Aside from that throw, Burrow showed all the progress of someone gearing up for a big second season in the NFL. Burrow completed 65.3% of his passes for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions before he was injured.

He said he’s a better all-around player than he was a year ago, and he’s excited to show everyone the improvements.

On Wednesday, Burrow exuded confidence — in his knee, his rehab process and his abilities. He still needs to prove to himself he can make some of the plays he made as a rookie. But at the start of training camp, there was no apprehension.

“I’m just ready to go out and play some football,” Burrow said.

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